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State University of New York at Purchase

State University of New York at Purchase
Motto Think Wide Open
Established 1967
Endowment $54.4 million (2013)[1]
President Thomas J. Schwarz[2]
Provost Barry Pearson[3]
Academic staff
Students 4,265[1]
Location Purchase, NY, United States
Campus Suburban, 550 acres (2 km²)[5]
Colors Athletic: Blue and Orange; Traditional: Heliotrope and Puce[6]
Mascot Panther

Purchase College, State University of New York, is a public four-year college located in Purchase, New York, United States. It is one of 13 comprehensive colleges in the State University of New York (SUNY) system. Founded by Governor Nelson Rockefeller in 1967 as "the cultural gem of the SUNY system," Purchase College claims to offer "a unique education that combines programs in the liberal arts with conservatory programs in the arts in ways that emphasize inquiry, mastery of skills, and creativity."[7] Purchase College was ranked 9 in U.S. News & World Report's 2014 listing of top public liberal arts colleges.[8] The college was listed as one of Kiplinger's 100 Best Public College Values in 2014.[9] It was also listed in that publication's 2014 list of Best Values in Small Colleges. The Princeton Review included Purchase College in its 2015 list of The Best 379 Colleges.[10]

Purchase College confers the following degrees: Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BS), Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), Bachelor of Music (MusB), Master of Arts (MA), Master of Fine Arts (MFA), and Master of Music (MM).[11] As a requirement for the BA and BS degree, students undertake a senior project in which they devote two semesters to an in-depth, original, and creative study under the close supervision of a faculty mentor. Similarly, the BFA and MusB studies culminate in a senior exhibition, film, or recital. Master's degree programs culminate in a thesis and the MFA and MM culminate in an exhibition, recital, or related presentation.

Purchase College's main plaza. All academic and service buildings centrally located on the newly renovated plaza.
Purchase College campus at dusk


  • History 1
  • Academic profile 2
  • School of the Arts 3
    • School of Art+Design 3.1
    • Conservatory of Dance 3.2
    • Conservatory of Music 3.3
    • Conservatory of Theatre Arts 3.4
  • School of Liberal Arts and Sciences 4
    • School of Film and Media Studies 4.1
    • School of Humanities 4.2
    • School of Natural and Social Sciences 4.3
    • Interdisciplinary Studies 4.4
  • School of Liberal Studies & Continuing Education 5
  • Senior project 6
  • Student life 7
    • Purchase Student Government Association 7.1
    • Clubs and events 7.2
  • Athletics 8
  • Campus 9
  • Dormitories and Housing 10
  • Architecture 11
  • Campus sustainability 12
  • Performing Arts Center 13
  • Neuberger Museum of Art 14
  • Notable faculty and alumni 15
  • References 16
  • External links 17


Purchase College was originally a 500-acre estate and working farm in the 1700s.

The land that would become Purchase College was first settled by the Thomas family in 1734.[12] John Thomas served as an assemblyman in colonial New York from 1743-1776. He served as a judge for the Court of Common Pleas in Westchester and a Muster-Master. Judge Thomas was an early supporter of American independence. Robert Bolton wrote in History of Westchester County that Thomas was "a warm Whig" who gave the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence in New York at the White Plains courthouse on July 11, 1776.[12] On March 22, 1777, Thomas was imprisoned by the British and died on May 2, 1777.[12]

John Thomas' sons, John Thomas, Jr. and Thomas Thomas, also fought for American independence.[12] Thomas Thomas was later appointed a General. He is buried at the Thomas family graveyard, which is located behind the Neuberger Museum of Art on the campus of Purchase College.[12] A tall, white stone obelisk commemorates General Thomas and his family.[12]

Academic profile

Summer orientation 2013

As of 2014, Purchase College had 4,265 undergraduate students with freshman enrollment of 694.[1][13] 56% of Purchase's student body is female. 17% of the college's students come from outside of New York state and 2.5% of its students are international.[13] Purchase has an acceptance rate of 33% and a student-teacher ratio of 16:1.[14] 62% of Purchase students receive need-based financial aid and the college has an endowment of $54.4 million.[1]

University rankings
ARWU[15] N/A
Forbes[16] N/A
ARWU[17] N/A
QS[18] N/A
Times[19] N/A
Liberal arts colleges
U.S. News & World Report[20] 171
Washington Monthly[21] 240

Purchase College was ranked the ninth-best public liberal-arts college (156 overall) in U.S. News & World Report's 2014 college rankings.[8] Kiplinger ranked the school as the 89th Best Value in Public Colleges in 2014.[14] It was also listed as one of the 100 Best Value Public Colleges for the years 2013 and 2014 by the Princeton Review.[13] The Princeton Review rated the school's theatre as the tenth best and the student body as the twelfth most liberal.[13] Purchase was also listed as one of the Princeton Review's top 376 colleges for 2014.[10] Newsweek ranked the school's student body as the thirteenth most liberal in 2012.[22]

Purchase College offers majors from three schools: the School for Liberal Arts and Sciences, the School of the Arts, and the School of Liberal Studies & Continuing Education.[23] According to U.S. News & World Report, the five most popular majors for 2012 graduates at Purchase College were Visual and Performing Arts (40%); General Studies and Humanities (20%); Social Sciences (10%); Communication, Journalism and related programs (7%); and Psychology (6%).[24]

School of the Arts

Public Art on Campus

Purchase College's School of the Arts houses the college's schools of Art+Design and Art Management.[25] It also oversees Purchase's conservatories of Dance, Music and Theatre Arts.[25] Most courses offered by BA programs housed in the School of the Arts are open to all Purchase students.[26] Many BFA and MusB classes are open to all students as well.[26] Approximately 40% of Purchase College's student body is enrolled in the School of the Arts.[27]

The Jandon Business of the Arts Distinguished Lecture Series, endowed by the Donald Cecil family, is designed to enhance the arts management program at the college. Past lecturers include Joseph Volpe, former general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, and Ben Cameron, program director at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.[28]

School of Art+Design

Purchase College's School of Art+Design houses the college's programs in graphic design, painting/drawing, photography, printmaking, and sculpture.[29] It also houses the Richard and Dolly Maas Gallery, which exhibits work from emerging artists, students, faculty, and alumni.[30] The School of Art+Design hosts an annual Visiting Artist Lecture Series that brings artists, art historians, curators, and critics to campus for lectures and discussions with students and the broader Purchase community.[31] Previous guest lecturers include Jules de Balincourt,[32] Justine Kurland,[33] Amanda Ross-Ho,[34] and Barnaby Furnas.[35]

Conservatory of Dance

Inside the Dance Building

The Conservatory of Dance houses both bachelor's and master's programs.[36] It is one of the most highly regarded conservatories of dance in the United States.[37] Undergraduates may major in modern or performance ballet, and dance composition and dance production.[36] The conservatory confers master's degrees in dance choreography and performance teaching.[36] The Conservatory of Dance is housed in the Purchase College Dance Building, which was the first facility constructed in the United States solely for the study and performance of dance.[38]

It is also home to the Purchase Dance Company, the college's student dance company.[39] The Purchase Dance company presents The Nutcracker every December and a balanced repertory during the spring semester.[40] The dance company also tours throughout the United States and internationally during the college's summer break.[39] Purchase College students must audition for inclusion in the dance company, and the cast for individual shows is based on the technical competencies of members of the company.[40] Students may earn college credit for their participation in the company.[40]

Conservatory of Music

Purchase Jazz Orchestra performs at Lincoln Center in New York City.

Purchase College's Conservatory of Music houses the college's bachelor's and master's programs in music.[41] Undergraduates may study classical music instrumentation with a concentration in one of several types of instruments; voice and opera; classical composition; jazz; studio composition; or studio production.[41] The Conservatory of Music also offers master's programs in all of these areas, except studio production.[42] The enrollment in the conservatory is limited to 400 undergraduate and graduate students.[41] It is one of the few conservatories in the United States that produces full opera productions predominately for undergraduates.[43] The conservatory's Music Building has two recital halls, 75 practice rooms, 80 Steinway & Sons pianos, and professional recording studios.

The Purchase Opera, the school's student opera company, was founded in 1998 and has won nine first-place honors from the National Opera Association.[44] During the 2012-2013 season, the opera won first place in the National Opera Association's Division II for its production of Die Fledermaus and second place in Division III for its production of Hansel and Gretel.[45]

The Purchase Jazz Orchestra is a 17-piece big band composed of students from the conservatory's jazz studies program. Each year the orchestra performs at jazz venues such as Blue Note Jazz Club and Dizzy's in New York City.[46][47]

Conservatory of Theatre Arts

Purchase Repertory Theatre presents multiple performances each year.

The Conservatory of Theatre Arts confers four undergraduate degrees: acting; playwriting and screenwriting; theatre design/technology; and theatre and performance.[48] It also offers a master's in theatre design/technology.[48] The conservatory is the top theatre school in the nation, according to the Princeton Review.[49] The conservatory was ranked 20 in Hollywood Reporter's list of Best Drama Schools in 2014.[50] It has a total enrollment of around 400 students.[51]

The conservatory's training focuses on the needs and strengths of individual students, instead of a one-size-fits-all training approach.[52] Students participate in showcases and exhibitions in New York, Los Angeles, and on-campus at the school's blackbox theater.[52] Conservatory students can also work on Purchase Repertory Theatre productions. The theatre's productions are held at the Purchase Arts Center and are student-led shows that feature both acting and design/technology students.[51]

The Broadway Technical Theatre History Project at Purchase College presents the annual "Backstage Legends and Masters Award" to distinguished professionals who represent a variety of Broadway production specialties.[53]

School of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Purchase College's School of Liberal Arts and Sciences houses the college's School of Film and Media Studies; School of Humanities; School of Natural and Social Sciences; interdisciplinary studies; and residential communities and interest groups for freshmen.[54] Students can choose from 23 separate majors or they can design an interdisciplinary major from several courses of study.[54]

The annual Durst Lecture Series, supported by an endowment from the Durst family, brings in celebrated writers to the campus. Past lecturers include authors Tim O'Brien and Hettie Jones.[55]

School of Film and Media Studies

The college's School of Film and Media Studies houses undergraduate programs in cinema studies; film; media, society, and the arts; and new media.[56] The school also works in collaboration with the Conservatory of Theatre Arts to offer Purchase College's undergraduate program in playwriting and screenwriting.[56]

School of Humanities

The School of Humanities houses the college's undergraduate programs in art history; creative writing; history; journalism; language and culture; literature; and philosophy.[57] It also offers a master's in art history.[57]

Purchase College Student in lab facility of the Natural Sciences Building.

School of Natural and Social Sciences

Purchase's School of Natural and Social Sciences houses the college's undergraduate programs in anthropology; biochemistry; biology; chemistry; economics; environmental studies; mathematics/computer science; political science; psychology; and sociology.[58] The school also presents an annual Natural and Social Sciences Symposium, which exhibits original research conducted by students; and the SMW Lecture Series.[59][60]

Interdisciplinary Studies

Interdisciplinary studies in the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences encompass undergraduate programs in gender studies, Asian studies, and Latin American studies.[61] Also offered is the Liberal Arts Individualized Program of Study (informally called the Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts).,[22] which is open to students who want to pursue an individualized course of study that is not accommodated by an existing major.[22] Students work with two faculty members representing their study disciplines to create an individualized curriculum.[22]

School of Liberal Studies & Continuing Education

The School of Liberal Studies & Continuing Education allows community residents and students to complete their bachelor's degree and to take both credit and noncredit courses at the college.[62] The school confers the bachelor's degree in liberal studies, which is designed for students with some undergraduate credit who want complete their degree within a tight timeframe and are looking for a flexible schedule. Up to 90 transfer credits are accepted in this program.[62] It also offers continuing education and certificate programs; an online winter session; and the college's summer session.[62]

New Media Senior Project Exhibition

Senior project

Students at Purchase must successfully complete a senior project prior to graduation.[63] The senior project requires that students devote two semesters to original and creative study.[63] Student projects are overseen by a faculty reader/sponsor from the area of study in which the student has majored.[63] Examples of previous senior projects include the Student Center and the Alternative Clinic. The Student Center is a student recreational facility, which was opened in 2003 as a part of student Ben Offer-Arie's senior project. The Alternative Clinic is a student-run women's health clinic opened in 1978 as a part of a senior project.

Student life

Purchase Student Government Association

The Purchase Student Government Association (PSGA) is a

  • Official website
  • Official athletics website

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Actor Stephen Rannazzisi falsely claimed for years to have attended Purchase College, for some reason.[88]

Alumni from the liberal arts and sciences include authors Nora Raleigh Baskin, David Graeber, and Jeanne Darst. Scientists Jill Bargonetti and Carl Safina attended the college along with journalists Manohla Dargis and Adam Nagourney.

Artists who attended Purchase include Katherine Bradford, Gregory Crewdson, Luis Croquer, Thomas E. Franklin, Jimmy Joe Roche, Jon Kessler, Ron Rocco, Chris Dorland, Grammy Nominated engineer Chris Conway and Fred Wilson. Emmy award-winning art director Fabrice Kenwood attended the school. Purchase counts among its alumni musicians such as Quentin Angus, Chris Ballew, Imani Coppola, Dan Deacon, Jack Dishel, Dan Romer, record producer Elite, the band Kiss Kiss, Jeffrey Lewis, Mase, the band O'Death, Daryl Palumbo, Bess Rogers, Joel Rubin, Langhorne Slim, Regina Spektor, Stephanie Winters and Jenny Owen Youngs, and 2-time Caldecott Honor Award-winning writer and artist Laura Vaccaro Seeger.

Purchase College alumni are well represented throughout the arts. Actors who attended the college include Rochelle Aytes, Susie Essman, Edie Falco, Zoë Kravitz, Melissa Leo, James McDaniel, Janel Moloney, Parker Posey, Ving Rhames, Jay O. Sanders, Wesley Snipes, Sherry Stringfield, Stanley Tucci, and Shea Whigham. Other film professionals who attended Purchase College include directors Ilya Chaiken, Abel Ferrara, Hal Hartley, Bob Gosse Michael Spiller, James Spione, and Chris Wedge. Theatrical designers David Gallo, Brian MacDevitt, Kenneth Posner and Tony award-winning lighting designer Jeff Crioter also attended the school. Playwright Donald Margulies and dancers Kyle Abraham and Doug Varone are Purchase College alumni. Dancers Kyle Abraham, Terese Capucilli, and Doug Varone attended Purchase.

Notable Purchase College faculty members include Bradley Brookshire, a harpsichordist and Grammy nominee; Todd Coolman, a jazz bassist and a two-time time Grammy winner; composer Laura Kaminsky; pianist Steven Lubin; bassist Tim Cobb; and David Grill, a lighting designer who won Emmys for his work on the Super Bowl XLVII Halftime Show and 2002 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony. Other faculty members include Iris Cahn, a film editor and Emmy nominee; dance choreographer Rosalind Newman; Liz Phillips, an artist and Guggenheim Fellow; Andrew Bernstein, a philosopher and prominent Objectivist; writer Melissa Febos; and artists Steve Lambert, Kate Gilmore, and Hakan Topal.

Notable faculty and alumni

The college also houses the Neuberger Museum of Art, which is among the ten largest museums in New York and the eighth-largest university museum in the nation.[80] The museum opened in 1972.[68] It holds a permanent collection of more than 7,000 works of art[86] and features a full schedule of exhibitions, lectures, films, and multimedia events. The museum presents more than a dozen exhibitions each year in addition to ongoing exhibitions from its permanent collections. The Neuberger Museum of Art has works from 20th-century masters, midcareer and emerging artists, and the is well known for its permanent exhibition of African art.[87]

The Neuberger Museum of Art gift shop
The Neuberger Museum of Art main entrance

Neuberger Museum of Art

The Performing Arts Center presents a broad range of performances – offering music, dance, theatre, comedy, and cinema to audiences from Westchester and the surrounding communities. The Center features world-class orchestras and leading contemporary artists emerging artists. As the major regional presenter of dance, programs have included appearances of many important traditional, contemporary, and folkloric companies. The Center has been the scene of performances by artists such as Lang Lang, Patti LuPone, Pilobolus, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance, Elvis Costello, Mark Morris Dance Group, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and comedian George Carlin. The Performing Arts center is also home to Conservatory of Theatre Arts' Purchase Repertory Theatre. The Center’s ongoing initiatives include artist partnerships, residency activities, and commissions.

Situated on the campus is the college's Performing Arts Center. It is a four-theatre complex that is the largest performing arts center in the SUNY system.[84] The center's performance spaces include the 1400-seat, three-tiered Concert Hall with hydraulic lifts for orchestra; the 600-seat Recital Hall with rear-screen projection bay; the 700-seat PepsiCo Theatre designed by Ming Cho Lee; and the Repertory Theatre, a "black box" with flexible stage and seating configurations.[85] Each theatre is specifically designed for the presentation of a different type of performance and many types of events.

Purchase Opera at the Performing Arts Center

Performing Arts Center

In 2014, the college unveiled the "Rocket" composting system, which has the capacity to handle 460 gallons of food waste every week.[83]

The college consistently ranks as one of the top sustainable colleges in the nation having ranked 72nd by the Sierra Club’s America's greenest colleges. This ranking factors in the college's energy use, waste, water, food, and purchasing policies.[81] The college is also included in the 2014 Princeton Review Guide to Green Colleges.[82]

Campus sustainability

The college's master architectural plan was created by architect Edward Larrabee Barnes and reflected the belief that "modern architecture might be able to reshape the world."[79] It has been described as a "period piece of the 1960s" and the architects who designed and built the campus include Philip Johnson and John Burgee, Paul Rudolph, Venturi & Rauch, Gwathmey Siegel & Henderson, The Architects Collaborative, Giovanni Pasanella, and Gunnar Birkerts.[79] The campus' original buildings were placed close together to allow the surrounding fields to remain open.[79] The college grounds are also home to many sculptures.[80]


Purchase college consists of five dormitory halls, Crossroads, Big Haus, Farside, Outback and Fort Awesome, along with three apartment complexes, The Olde, The Commons (The New), and Alumni Village. Crossroads, Farside, and parts of Big Haus house first year students and the staff in the building, one professional Residence Coordinator (RC) and two Residence Assistants (RA's) per floor, are accommodated towards offering first year students help.[70][71][72] The other parts of Big Haus along with Outback, Fort Awesome, and the apartment complexes are upperclassmen housing and the selection process of these buildings are determined by the amount of credits one has.[73][74][75][76][77] Outback residence hall is also apart of the wellness program housing the school provides which according to it's page on the Purchase website "houses students committed to holistic health and wellness. Staff and residents develop programs that focus specifically on areas of Wellness including Physical, Intellectual, Vocational/Occupational, Emotional, Social (Cultural, Societal, Family, Community), Environmental and Spiritual."[78]

A front view of the Outback residence hall at SUNY Purchase.
A common room in the Crossroads residence hall at SUNY Purchase.

Dormitories and Housing

Purchase College is located on approximately 500 acres in Westchester County, New York on the former Strathglass farm.[68] The property was originally owned by Thomas Thomas, an American Revolutionary war soldier, whose family-and-servant cemetery remains on the campus between the south end of the Humanities and Visual Arts buildings.[69] The college is adjacent to the Westchester County Airport, and is across the street from PepsiCo's corporate headquarters.

A side view of residence halls Outback and Fort Awesome(far left) from the parking lot of SUNY Purchase.
I look at the Farside (left) and Crossroads (right) residence halls at SUNY Purchase.


In 2014, SUNY Purchase Men's Soccer Program won its first Skyline Conference Championship, defeating St. Joe's (LI) in overtime by the score of 2-1 on Junior Sanguina's second goal of the game.

The Purchase College Athletic Department also houses non-varsity and intramural teams and clubs. Intramural teams include basketball, flag football, floor hockey, indoor soccer, racquet sports, co-ed softball, Water Polo, Quidditch and volleyball.[66] Intramural clubs include Men's Lacrosse, fencing club, stage combat, Tae Kwan Do, Ultimate Frisbee club, Nerf club, Outdoors Adventure, field hockey, Chung Do Kwan, equestrian, Zumba and PiYo.[67]

SUNY Purchase teams, the Purchase Panthers, participate as a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division III. The Panthers are a member of the Skyline Conference. Men's sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, swimming & diving, tennis and volleyball. Women's sports include basketball, cross country, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming & diving, tennis and volleyball.

Purchase Panthers Men's Basketball Team — Skyline conference champs 2014


Purchase College is home to many clubs, organizations, and services. These groups allow students with similar interests to gather for weekly or biweekly meetings with activities and discussions. Campus clubs and organizations have included: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Union (LGBTQ); acapella group Choral Pleasure.[65] Purchase College holds several events throughout the year including the Culture Shock festival, Zombie Prom and Fall Fest. The Culture Shock festival is an annual two-day music festival sponsored by the PSGA. The weekend festival is typically held in April. Notable performers have included: Iggy Azalea, Flatbush Zombies, MF DOOM, Lil B, Ween, Jay Electronica, Dan Deacon, Regina Spektor, Deerhoof, Pissed Jeans, Animal Collective, GZA, Cat Power, Blonde Redhead, Bouncing Souls, Ghostface Killah, Ted Leo, Biz Markie, Kool Keith, Slick Rick, Destiny's Child, Drake, Tycho, Beach Fossils, Dead Prez, and Big Freedia. Zombie Prom is a prom-type event held in the Student Center where students dress up as zombies. Fall Fest is a musical event held every fall in the Student Center.[65]

Clubs and events


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